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'Not just a gym it's a lifeline': Members' pleas for The Armoury to be saved

PUBLISHED: 12:05 14 January 2013

Members of the Armoury gym campaigning to save the premises from being sold off to private developers by Camden Council. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Members of the Armoury gym campaigning to save the premises from being sold off to private developers by Camden Council. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Archant

Widely loved for playing a large part in the Hampstead community, The Armoury is not just a gym.

Accommodating patients and staff from the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead and referrals from local GPs, The Armoury also offers discounted rates to local residents.

But members of the health centre, in Pond Street, are now rallying to save the building from being sold off to private investors by Camden Council.

Camden has named The Armoury among buildings which could be disposed of to raise money to invest in council homes and schools.

Avraham Shapir, 78, who lives in Hodford Road, Golders Green, suffered from a stroke five years ago and has been attending The Armoury three times a week ever since.

“Because of the Armoury I can function at last,” he said. “I can walk and I can drive a car.

“Without them I would have been in a wheelchair. They are doing such fantastic work that it would be a disaster if they close. For me it’s a lifeline.”

A community of members, from the young to the old, has evolved throughout the years at The Armoury.

Founded in 1993, the Heart To Heart club, for Royal Free patients recovering from heart problems, is still going strong.

With some founding members still attending and a group of volunteers who run the sessions, the club has developed into a tight knit social group.

Honorary treasurer of the group, John Stanton, 77, who lives in Finchley, said: “This is a mutual support group and it’s based on exercise.

“It’s very important for a lot of people. A lot of elderly people rely on it. Everybody looks after everybody else.

“If The Armoury closed it would be an absolute disaster. A lot of people rely on it. Where else would they get the same facilities and opportunities?”

Physical advisor Rosalie Simons, 82, who lives in Tobin Close, Swiss Cottage, said: “Lots of people have come even when they’re not really able to join in. They encourage each other and keep an eye on each other – it’s a real club.”

Brenda Crockford, 48, a receptionist from Cricklewood who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and is recovering from septicaemia, said: “The gym has given me a knowledge of what I can do.

“My balance is slowly getting better. It would be a real shame if the gym closed as I don’t know of any others where I would feel confident and happy to go to.”

Based near the Royal Free building in Pond Street, The Armoury also caters to staff and patients from the hospital.

Clinical physiologist Elisabeth Sims, 47, who has a busy schedule, has attended The Armoury for about seven years.

She said: “It’s an absolute lifeline for me. The Armoury gives me lots more energy to do my job and it makes me feel a lot calmer.

“I also had a life-changing operation 18 months ago and I recovered very well. They gave me a personalised programme to help me rehabilitate.

“It’s very apparent when you’re in there that it welcomes everyone. It’s nice to feel a part of that.”

A final decision on its future will be made by Camden Council’s cabinet on Wednesday (January 16).

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